Coalition looks to ‘Thor’ to collar criminal gangs

Tiny pre election allocation to combat lawbreaking epidemic

Sligo News File Online.

Easkey Garda Station, closed 2013
Easkey Garda Station, closed 2013

They closed garda stations, slashed garda numbers, and left the force reliant on a fleet of old bangers to fight virtually uncontrolled thuggery and criminality throughout the countryside.
Now, just ahead of the coming general election, the Fine Gael – Labour Coalition have announced a ‘crumbs from the table’ €5 million allocation to combat the tidal wave of mob activity that has surged to new heights since they took office.

Even the uproar in communities the length and breadth of the state over the scale of the law breaking hasn’t been sufficient to move the Fine Gael-led administration to action – until now. Families have been abandoned  to a life of fear, not knowing if their home will be next on the hit list to be stormed by roaming hoodlums equipped with high-powered vehicles and life threatening tools of the trade. Taken with the raids on business premises and farm holdings, the criminal carnage has shattered public confidence in the government’s commitment to public safety – most notably in rural areas of the country.

‘Operation Thor’ is the pre election plan on which Fine Gael and Labour are now pinning their hopes of convincing the people they Thorare serious about tackling the scourge of lawlessness. In Norse mythology, Thor is a hammer wielding god associated with thunder, lightening, oak trees and strength, protection of mankind, hallowing, healing and fertility.

Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald has rebuffed calls for the reopening of the raft of garda stations closed by the Coalition.

The Operation Thor plan has as key elements –

  • The launch of new high-powered vehicles for use by the armed Regional Response Units
  • Extra high-visibility patrols
  • Increased use of checkpoints on the national road network
  • Efforts focussed on the disruption of the stolen goods market
  • Programmes to help reduce re-offending
  • A high-profile national crime prevention awareness programme
  • Enhanced supports for victims
  • Funding for garda overtime

This is the volume of activity which the Coalition is telling the people they are about to harness under the plan, and for which, too, they consider an investment of €5 million to be sufficient. But stretch the €5 million  over the 28 garda divisions of the country, it will be seen that the share of the sum for a division such as Sligo amounts to a mere €178,000; small potatoes for the mobilisation of the multiple element Thor operation,  as proposed. It’s hard to imagine the relatively small level of investment will have the criminal gangs quaking in their boots at the extent of what is on the cards. Garda numbers are also severely depleted. There are  reports as well that, so low are salaries and allowances, gardai in some instances have to sleep in their cars – not exactly the kind of situation designed to boost morale, essential to a crime fighting force.

Local Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin has stated that the Coalition is also investing in airborne surveillance and enhanced technology and ICT systems. As specific details of the package are not revealed, more than a few may well be questioning if this Coalition promise isn’t all just so much pie in the sky.

Tony McLoughlin, T.D. Fine Gael, Sligo - Leitrim
Tony McLoughlin, T.D.
Fine Gael, Sligo – Leitrim

Going on his statement, however, McLoughlin appears convinced that ‘Thor’ will definitely “crack down on crime in Sligo,” and “come down hard” on the criminals who are operating in the county. No doubt communities in the county and rural locations elsewhere living in fear of the criminal mobs ganging up on the countryside will be hoping that whatever measure is in the pipeline it will prove to be more that yet another one of worthless promises of a government that to date has shown very scant regard for any needs of the local region.